A 25 year-old woman in El Salvador coordinates the Mesoamerica Peace Movement there. Because she aided a gang violence victim, her family had to move from their home for their safety. A crime victim herself, she has worked to get the police in El Salvador to redirect their approach and become peacemakers. She encouraged them to take Jose “Chencho” Alas’ peacemaker retreats and many have done this.
At these retreats Chencho asks police what their job is and every time he mentions this, the police reply is: “Enforce the laws and arrest and put criminals in prison.” He tells them, “No! Your job is to develop principles and values to be peacemakers and become peacemakers.”
We are dealing, even in Olympia, with the shooting of young black people by a police officer in making an arrest. What if Olympia’s police saw their job as being “peacemakers” instead of “enforcers” and had training to accomplish this and de-escalate conflicts rather than taking actions that could escalate violence response from arrested?
In the last decade, the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office provided trainings on de-escalating violence in conflicts with non-aggressive body language and defensive positions. What if more of these techniques were used by our police in the jobs they do? It is clear, we need new approaches.